5 Strategies to Become the Marketing MVP

It’s a great time to be in marketing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts a 9 percent growth in employment for marketers through 2024, 2 percent above the average growth rate of other industries. With this type of growth comes tremendous competition, which means it’s getting harder for A-players to stand out. In order to rise to the top and become a Marketing MVP, you need to proactively manage your career.

It’s a great time to be in marketing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts a 9 percent growth in employment for marketers through 2024, 2 percent above the average growth rate of other industries.

With this type of growth comes tremendous competition, which means it’s getting harder for A-players to stand out. In order to rise to the top and become a Marketing MVP, you need to proactively manage your career. Here are some strategies you can start applying today.

1. Keep a Career Journal

As a marketer, you know the importance of data. Well, keeping data about your career can assist you in getting the raise or promotion you want and provide guidance when going after new opportunities.

There should be two parts to your career journal — one focused on your overall career goals and another documenting details of projects as you complete them.

For your overall career goals, ask yourself questions like these and review your answers on a quarterly basis.

  • Where do I see myself in the next step of my career? Be as specific as you can.
  • What skills do I need to develop to get there?
  • What do I need to improve or create in order to reach my goal?
  • What is my No. 1 priority for the next 12 months?
  • What do I want to be doing more of in my career?
  • Am I spending time on the things that will take me where I want to go in my career?
  • What do I want to be known for?

Then as you complete projects in your current role, jot down what the challenge or situation was, the actions you completed and the results you got. This is what is commonly known as a CAR story (Challenge, Action, Result) or STAR story (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Be sure to include all quantifiable data you can in the results.

2. Always Be in Contact With Your Network

This doesn’t mean you have to contact your network daily, but checking in every few months to say hello, ask how they’re doing, wish them a happy birthday, etc. is a best practice. It helps keep you top of mind.

It’s also important to maintain your network even when you are happy in your current position. Be of service to others so when you find yourself in need of help, you’ll have people to reach out to.

3. Keep Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile Updated

It’s nice to be at the ready when a recruiter unexpectedly comes calling.

If you review your resume and LinkedIn profile every quarter, you won’t have to spend hours and hours updating your resume trying to remember everything you’ve done in the last few years. Plus when you are still employed, you have access to the quantifiable data!

Keep in mind you should not just dump your resume in your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile should complement your resume. Get rid of all the resume speak and incorporate keywords into your headline. For more details on how to craft a great LinkedIn profile, check out my previous blog post “LinkedIn for Stealth Job Seekers.”

In case it’s been several years since you last updated your resume, you’ll want to give it a format overhaul so it looks like it belongs in this century. Think of your resume like a newspaper article — incorporate a headline (your target job title) and subhead (your personal branding statement) and follow those up with proof points (your summary). For more tips on resume writing check out my previous blog post “How to Write a Killer Marketing Resume.”

4. Volunteer for Opportunities Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you want to get ahead in your career, ask your boss what you can take off their plate. When you can show you’ve done it, you’ll be more likely to get that promotion. Volunteering for projects shows you take initiative and may also get you exposure to more decision makers in your company.

Volunteering outside of your company has lots of benefits too. It can help expand your skillset and your network. Not only that, but studies have shown it makes you a better employee. A UnitedHealth Group study found that “Employees who volunteer also bring more refined job skills to the workplace which provides a significant benefit to their employer.”

5. Pursue Professional Development 

Regardless if your employer pays for it or not, you should be taking courses to enhance your skills and keep them current. When you seek out opportunities to expand your skillset it makes you a more valuable asset to your current company and more marketable in general.

It’s not always an MBA you need to pursue either. Certifications like Google AdWords, Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer or HubSpot Inbound Marketing can be valuable if you current or potential employer uses these tools.

Although professional marketers don’t have agents like professional athletes, you can still be the MVP of your marketing team when you take charge of your career.

Calling All College Students

We need the ideas and passion of college students interested in online marketing to keep our industry energized and growing. But judging by the many smart and capable students and grads we have been privileged to connect with over the years, your coursework has failed to adequately prepare you for the future you envision.

college studentIf you are considering a career in online marketing,  I applaud you.

We need your ideas and passion to keep our industry energized and growing. But judging by the many smart and capable students and grads we have been privileged to connect with over the years, your coursework has failed to adequately prepare you for the future you envision. And the industry is poorer for it.

Our educational institutions are starting to catch up with dedicated, digitally focused coursework and industry practitioners to help keep it real, but the ivory tower alone won’t sufficiently groom you for success. You will need to take your future into your own hands and look outside your required classes to set the stage for your professional trajectory.

In many ways, an entrepreneurial approach is excellent preparation for a digital career. Digital marketers are, of necessity, multi-faceted and in a constant state of change that favors the nimble and prepared. A solid set of core skills, a deep understanding of consumer behaviors online, demonstrated passion for this industry and the right attitude are infinitely more valuable than even specific experience that may soon be obsolete and can help prepare you to chart your own future and that of this industry.

Core Skills

In addition to learning the marketing basics be sure to come to your first job with the following hard, soft (and somewhere in-between) skill sets.

Data Acuity. The days of math-challenged or tech-avoidance students in marketing careers are long, long gone. As a start, get comfortable in spread sheets including more advanced skills like pivot tables and macros. Learn to read and manipulate data tables but use statistics and other analytics skills and programs to extract meaning that can be used for decision making. Know the difference between data and information.

Programming. You don’t need to be a professional coder but you do need to understand how bits and bytes work. Experiment with your own simple site to learn the basics of HTML.

Writing. Communicating in all channels and modes is a critical skill set for any professional and great communicators have a substantial advantage in any marketplace at any level. This extends to public speaking so work on your confident presentation by offering to deliver class projects or results in front of both small and larger audiences.

Perspective

Broaden your horizons with disciplines that will give you insights into human behavior and psyche. Behavioral economics, psychology and literature, among other disciplines, will advance your understanding of human decision making and make you a stronger marketer.

Go global. Our world is shrinking so understanding how others view and interact with the world beyond documented, aggregated buying behaviors is a plus. If you have the opportunity to study or travel abroad don’t pass it up. Foreign language skills will also differentiate you.

It’s also important that you don’t believe that your current set of college age, college educated friends represents the totality of even the US population. Get out of your bubble and get to know the broader population through travel, hobbies, activism or other means.

Entrepreneurism

Entrepreneurs seem to have the right DNA to succeed in the online marketing industry amid the demands of constant reinvention. Regardless of the type of business, show us that you have the desire and capacity to try to build something. Even better if you had to team with others as this will demonstrate your ability to collaborate and problem solve. If you have not built a business on any scale, show how you have responded quickly and successfully to changing circumstance.

Industry Passion

For online marketing, learning is about participating — not just hearing or reading — so you need to be a student of the industry. Demonstrate your interest by finding industry internships, following industry publications and staying current with major news, trends and releases. Use your social channels, personal site or other online avenues to present your POV or participate in the industry discussion.

Jump at opportunities like the Google Online Marketing Challenge or other student competitions to get some hands on experience in building plans and launching, optimizing and measuring campaigns.

Ask for student discounted or even free admittance to industry events when they come to your town and use the time to steep yourself in the industry and also network for contacts. Local ad clubs or the like often have student memberships or events that provide access to local professionals for industry mentorship.

To succeed in a digital marketing career you need more than what your school offers and a fair amount of personal commitment. Layer academic theory with some practical exposure and the right combination of skills and attitude to become a sought-after addition to any online marketing team. And should you decide to take a different career track you will still be empowered with an impressive and marketable skill set that most any employer would covet. Good luck!

Marketing Interns—The Uncle Sam Scam

Last summer, my college-age son was lucky enough to land a summer internship at a manufacturing company in Southern California. Considering there were over 100 applicants, he was thrilled to have been selected for a position where he could demonstrate his newly learned marketing skills. And as a college Junior, he was excited with the promise of full-time employment upon graduation. He started the job with relish, and 4 and a half months later went back to college feeling on top of the world.

Last summer, my college-age son was lucky enough to land a summer internship at a manufacturing company in Southern California. Considering there were over 100 applicants, he was thrilled to have been selected for a position where he could demonstrate his newly learned marketing skills. And as a college junior, he was excited with the promise of full-time employment upon graduation. He started the job with relish, and 4 and a half months later went back to college feeling on top of the world.

So he was stunned when he discovered this week that there was NOT a full-time position available to him this summer. Instead, he was offered a part-time, minimum wage position with, again, the promise of potential full-time employment at the end of the summer.

When he pushed back and suggested that his long hours last summer meant he had already been “trained” and could hit the ground running and therefore it might entitle him to a little bit more than minimum wage, he was told that he should consider himself “lucky” to have the part-time job offered to him when last year over 50 applicants applied for the open position. In other words, this organization has no strategy in place to hire, train, and groom future employees. Instead, they hide behind a summer internship as a way to get free labor for the summer, lower their overhead expenses and avoid paying Uncle Sam for payroll and other taxes.

While I realize my sons’ experience may be the exception, I was disgusted by this company’s behavior and wondered how many other organizations build and run internship programs properly (and with good intention)?

Internships are a way to give back to our youth—to help them take their text-book based learning and put it into action. And it’s a chance for us, as employers, to invest in the future of our business.

Thinking of leveraging an internship program for your business? Consider these 3 business rules:

1. Establish Clear Program Objectives
What does your company hope to gain by hiring an intern? If the answer is “free labor,” you’re on the wrong track. Program objectives might include:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to test their interest in <> before a permanent commitment is made.
  • To help students develop skills in the application of theory to practical work situations.
  • To help students adjust from college to full time employment through the acquisition of good work habits and a sense of responsibility.

2. Develop a Job Description
Just as you need to create job descriptions for any full- or part-time employee, interns need a job description in order to help you and the entire organization understand expectations. Since misaligned expectations often lead to conflict, it’s important to make sure your intern is set up for a successful experience. That means everyone needs to be on the same page as to the responsibilities of the position. (I’ve been part of an organization that used their interns as the “go-fer” and the interns spent their time scurrying back and forth to Starbucks … not exactly the marketing experience they expected when they were hired.)

3. Create Feedback Mechanisms
If you’re truly trying to help your interns have a positive learning experience, then you must provide them with feedback—and on a regular basis. Once they start, you need to train and keep training by encouraging questions (and lots of them), providing explicit instructions so they can get it right the first time, and by stepping back and delivering a bigger picture around the task at hand to help put it all into perspective.

Let me also add that you should never assume any kind of baseline office knowledge from your interns. We recently discovered that the youngest member of our staff (a 2012 marketing grad) didn’t know how to use several pieces of office equipment. It never occurred to us that making Xerox copies, sending a fax or adjusting a printer setting from “portrait” to “landscape” were skills we had gained through years of employment and were not a natural part of the knowledge base of a 22-year old!

And if you’re reading this, work for a company based in San Diego, are looking to hire a bright and determined college grad from a not-so-inexpensive UC school with heavy experience in teaching kids how to surf, just let me know. Oh, and it should include a paycheck.

Addressing the Skills Gap: 5 Reasons Why Year-End Giving Should Include a DMEF Donation

The uncertain domestic and global economy masks a glaring concern—one that goes to the root of sustainability in our discipline. In the direct, digital and database marketing fields, there is a tremendous shortage now of qualified professionals, and likely in the near and long term.

The demand [for talent] has far outstripped the supply.” – Joe Zawadzki, Chief Executive, MediaMath, The New York Times (Front Page, Oct. 31, 2011)

The uncertain domestic and global economy masks a glaring concern—one that goes to the root of sustainability in our discipline. In the direct, digital and database marketing fields, there is a tremendous shortage now of qualified professionals, and likely in the near and long term.

  1. In its seminal research report, From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study (October 2011), IBM states that an explosion of data, social platforms, channel and device choices, and shifting demographics all point to tremendous hurdles for CMOs [chief marketing officers] to overcome. IBM calls it “a gap in readiness.” The ability of higher institutions to provide global (and local) brands with people with skills necessary to capitalize on customer-centric interactions is vital.

  2. Another current report from McKinsey’s Global Institute, Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity (May 2011), states that the world needs as many as 190,000 specialists with deep analytical skills whose sole focus is Web marketing (never mind, analyzing data in multi-channel environments). These new professionals will need to be steeped in mathematics and statistics, as well as in marketing and the vertical markets where brands reside.

  3. During the 2010-2012 period, according to the Direct Marketing Association (The Power of Direct Marketing, October 2011), the U.S. economy is forecast to create more than 280,000 jobs from mobile, search, Internet and email marketing alone. It’s vital we are able to deliver and develop professionals in our field who have requisite knowledge and education.

  4. In a recent employment study for Direct Marketing Association (Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report, September 2011), undertaken by Jerry Bernhart Associates, employers noted that analytics-related posts are the most highly sought in our field, followed by marketing, sales, creative and information technology. Most recently, 61 percent of employer respondents said they were experiencing difficulty attracting the right talent for open positions, with 50 percent attributing this to a shortage of qualified candidates, and 18 percent to a lack of specific job or technical skills.

  5. The Direct Marketing Educational Foundation (DMEF) serves to address the skills gap by enabling its Scholarship program, Student Career Forums, intensive training in interactive marketing (I-MIX), its Professor’s Institute, among other activities, to make direct and interactive marketing one of the most highly attractive fields for young adults. During the past year, DMEF engaged 2,580 students, more than 270 professors, and 650 schools in its various programs. We stand ready to exceed our success this coming year—but we need your support to do it.

For these five reasons, I just sent my donation to DMEF for its year-end DirectWorks Challenge (an initiative where I serve as a consultant). I encourage every professional in our field to make a tax-deductible donation today—preferably before Dec. 31, with my thanks: www.directworks.org/contribute

It’s the one donation that keeps giving back to us as marketing professionals.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!